Absentia (2011)

This micro-budgeted ‘haunting’ flick lands right in the middle of the road for me. On one hand, the story of two sisters tormented by a dark, malicious people-snatching entity is effectively simple in its narrative and contains more than a couple eerie moments. The filmmakers realized their short-comings (budget-wise) and played it safe; subscribing to the ‘less is more’ school of thought. The evil beasty was well conveyed with a heady mix of creepy sound and sinister ‘glimpses’, while the amateur cast strove to deliver…mostly succeeding too. On the other side, there was a definite ‘student’ film feeling to a lot of the proceedings that prevented me from FULLY engaging. The (over?) use of what I suspect was hand-held digital called attention to the smaller budget and diminshed the ‘cinema’ quality this was clearly striving for. Just a hunch here, but I’m willing to bet that the price tag would’ve, at least, allowed for a halfway decent tripod. Had they locked down a few more of the unnecessarily shaky shots, it would’ve certainly got them closer to feeling more like an ACTUAL movie. The music score wasn’t good…coming off as weak and uninspired. It mostly consisted of a couple of looonnng, bland notes that just felt unimaginative and cheezy. I did like that the characters all looked like ‘real’ people. No one was physically perfect; looking like they just stepped out of a Hollywood cookie cutter. It was refreshing and did add an air of ‘real-life’ tangibility. Story-wise, I do think that Absentia could’ve benefitted from some tightening, especially where the rules and mythology of the monster were concerned. Vague can be good…but it can also be amateurish. It’s a balancing act and this flick MOSTLY pulls it off. Stories like this often work better when rules are applied to the supernatural elements…and then adhered to by the narrative. An explanation for EVERYTHING isn’t needed but having something for the viewer to hold on to engages them in the story further. The final scene was surprisngly strong in the ‘chilly vibe’ department and that ALWAYS helps elevate cheaper cinematic fare. I’d say that, if you’re a ‘haunted house’ movie fan…this one is worth a look…if you HAPPEN to come across it.

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